On Aug. 28, environmental geography junior Jenna Drew’s roommate was already in bed when she heard yelling coming from the other room. The yelling was coming from Drew, who was tuned into the Video Music Awards, or VMAs, and had just heard Taylor Swift announce that she would be releasing a new album on Oct. 21.
“I know a lot of people had rumored that she was going to release something, but I thought it was just going to be another re-recording,” Drew said. “I didn’t think it would be a whole new album.”
"Midnights" will be Swift’s 10th studio album. While she has been releasing re-recordings of her old masters to gain ownership of those albums, "Midnights" will be the first time Swift has given her fans a brand-new album since "Evermore", which was released Dec. 2020.
Drew, however, was not the only MSU student who was eagerly watching the VMAs, hoping that Swift would make an announcement. Undecided sophomore Sophie Hahn was also excited to hear the news about new music.
“I immediately was texting my friends, freaking out, like, ‘Oh my god,'” Hahn said. “We made plans and everything to listen to it together."
Since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Swift has amassed a large and dedicated fan base, many of whom have grown up listening to her music, becoming life-long fans.
“My mom had at least the first three CDs,” Hahn said. “My favorite from her debut album was ‘Picture to Burn’ and from 'Fearless' it was ‘Love Story’. We would listen to them in the car again and again and again and again; that was the only thing we would listen to.”
Swift has become increasingly known for leaving “easter eggs”, or clues in her music videos and lyrics for her fans to pick out and unravel. These hints reveal projects that she is working on. Since the announcement of "Midnights," fans have been developing their own theories and looking for anything that will signal what it will bring. Comparative cultures and politics, and social Relations and policy senior Camille Czarny said that the main theory she has seen surrounds the possible titles of the songs, which Swift has not released yet.
“On the official announcement that she put up on Instagram, her wording was very specific," Czarny said. "People have been saying that the phrases that she used will be the names of the songs on the album.”
Hahn said that she and other fans have pointed out that Swift mentions “midnight” in the lyrics of many of her songs and has been doing this even before her more recent albums. While Hahn said she thinks it’s hard to believe Swift has been planning "Midnights" since she was fifteen or sixteen, she still finds many examples of the word playing a significant role in Swift’s music.
“There are some songs in "Red", maybe "Speak Now" ... and "1989" where she was referencing ‘midnight’ a lot,” Hahn said. “Maybe each time she references ‘midnight’ in a specific song, there’s maybe more to this midnight that she’s not telling us, and that’s what this album is going to be: expanding on those midnights in each of her songs.”
While many fans are eager to dig through music videos and lyrics to develop theories, others just enjoy hearing what their fellow “Swifties” are saying on social media. Drew said that since Swift has so many different things going on, it’s hard to keep track and know where to look for those clues.
“I’ve just heard a lot of people say that [the new album] is going to be a lot more personal,” Drew said. “I’ve seen people say stuff like it’s going to be a mixture of "Reputation" and "Folklore", with the vibes of "Reputation" but the sad lyrics and stuff like "Folklore" … I’m hoping it’s like that because "Folklore" is my favorite album and I think it would be fun to make it a little more like "Reputation," which is rock. I think it would be fun to make it a mixture of both.”
Though her music style has changed over time, ranging from her country roots to pop and the more alternative sounds of "Folklore" and "Evermore," fans have always found ways to connect to her music. Hahn said that Swift's lyrics are what resonates most with her and that even though her sound has evolved over time, she still loves her music.
“Honestly anything she puts out will be spectacular because most all of her songs are just phenomenal pieces,” Hahn said. “But I hope that ["Midnights"] makes me cry because that means that I’ve connected to it in one way or another.”
Czarny also said that she hopes that the album will be deeply emotional. She said that she thinks Swift is dealing with topics that grapple with the darkness many have been feeling for a long time and that it will be nice to connect with that side of the music.
“I hope that we get to see an actual glimpse into her life, rather than it feeling like more of a story,” Czarny said. “Sometimes it feels like she is telling someone else’s story, so I hope it feels really genuine to her ... Especially since she said it is from her sleepless nights and her troubled times, I hope that [the album] resonates with that.”
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